Experts Speak

A Student’s Guide to Choosing a Career in Law

There isn’t just one law career out there. Yes, you can become a defense attorney or a corporate lawyer – the roles you usually see portrayed in films and TV shows. But the world also needs immigration lawyers, in-house-counsels, and government attorneys, among others.

The reality is there are dozens of law careers out there. And depending on which one you choose, you can have the job of your dreams – or your nightmares.

Don’t put off picking a career until your graduation day. You should take the right classes, pass the right exams, and get your hands on the right opportunities. So, here’s your guide on law careers – and how to settle on one.

Family Law
Family Law

Make Sure a Career in Law Is for You

Studying law isn’t at all what they show you in films. It’s long and expensive, and you’ll have to constantly compete with your classmates to get the best grades. And prepare to buy essay online whenever you can’t keep up with the workload. (You’ll have tons of reading to do, so you’re guaranteed to need services like this at some point.)

Practicing law is also jam-packed with myths and stereotypes about it. But reality rarely proves them true.

Here are three hard truths about a legal career that you need to brace for before you continue.

  • Not all lawyers are paid over $100,000 per year. Depending on the field and the firm, median salaries can vary from $51,810 for criminal lawyers to $129,500 for their patent counterparts (source: PayScale).
  • You are very unlikely to work the standard 9-to-5 hours. Lawyers often spend 60 to 80 hours a week doing their job, especially at big law firms.
  • You won’t frequent the court as much as you expect. First, only 1-2% of all civil cases make it to trial. Second, even if they do, you’ll spend most of your time studying the case files in your office to prepare for it.

Know Your Options

If you’re ready for the tradeoff, good news: you have tons of career options to choose from! Each one comes with its particularities, though. And those options vary in terms of the working environment, main tasks and activities, and types of clients.

So, you might end up being miserable in one career – and enjoying every minute of work in another. How do you pick the right occupation, then? First, explore your options. They include

  • criminal defense attorneys;
  • prosecutors;
  • appellate attorneys;
  • international attorneys;
  • tax lawyers;
  • private-practice business attorneys;
  • in-house counsels;
  • sports and entertainment lawyers;
  • government attorneys.

Do Your Research

Before making any sort of decision, do your homework on each prospective career. Start with practicalities to assess the feasibility of this or that occupation. Go online and search for

  • prospective salaries with and without work experience;
  • job opportunities around you (or in a city/town where you’re ready to move after studies);
  • job requirements in this particular area (for example, check if you need to obtain any additional certifications);
  • what a typical working day in this field is like.

Gather all the information in a spreadsheet to have a side-by-side comparison view. Then, filter out the career options that don’t match your expectations regarding the salary or daily tasks.

Set Up Informational Interviews

In a nutshell, you need to find people that have the job title that interests you. Then, send them a request to meet up and pick their brains.

If you’ve never done something like this before and have no idea how to approach this task, here are several tips for you.

  • Use your network first. Your friends or family may have the right connection.
  • Reach out to a career office at your school. They may be able to put you in touch with someone.
  • Offer something in exchange. Since this person will be dedicating their scarce time to a meeting with you, offer to buy them coffee or lunch.
  • Prepare a list of open-ended questions. Come up with both personal and general questions.

Don’t expect every request you send out to be met with “of course, let’s meet up.” And remember: some people may not be fully candid since they don’t know you. But even one informational interview can help you get the lay of the land – and it can become great material for a college paper, too!

Narrow It Down With These 7 Questions

Does your head still go spinning from all the possible career avenues? That’s understandable. But you still need to choose; the earlier, the better.

Here are the seven questions you should ponder to narrow it down.

  1. What activities would constitute your average day at a dream job?
  2. What would be the most rewarding aspect of it? Helping others? A hefty paycheck? The thrill of winning the case? Negotiating a great deal?
  3. What do you enjoy the most in your studies? Debating? Reading the fine print? Drawing up contracts?
  4. What type of clients do you want to help?
  5. What type of employer would you want to work for? Would you prefer to be employed by a nonprofit, an international organization, a private firm, or the government?
  6. How much time do you want to spend collaborating or in meetings? How about working on your own?
  7. What are your passions outside of law itself? Is there any possible overlap between them and working in law? (E.g., animal law.)

Having answers to these questions won’t just help you pick a career. When you need to write a cover letter for a job opening, they’ll come in handy, too!

In Conclusion

The sooner you settle on a career, the better. You’ll know what skills to build, what internships to seek out, and what employers to contact. You’ll also get a head start on your classmates who don’t know what they want to do with their lives yet.

That said, always have a backup plan. Things might not work out with your current choice. Maybe, it’ll be more difficult to get your first job offer. Or, perhaps, you’ll realize it’s not your cup of tea after a year of work. Having a backup plan will help you adapt to the situation as painlessly as possible.

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by Sushree Swagatika

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